ANITA III launched over Antarctica

ANITA III launched over Antarctica

Calm winds allowed the ANITA III experiment to be launched into the polar vortex above Antarctica on Dec. 17. The instrument consists of 48 radio receivers that are listening for  pings that will be generated when ultra-high-energy cosmic rays generate radio-frequency bursts that reflect off the ice and up to the instrument at a float altitude of 120,000 feet, four times higher than commerical airliners cruise.

Super-TIGER lying low for the Southern Hemisphere winter

Late Friday, Feb. 2, an overcast day in St. Louis, the twitter feed for the Super-TIGER cosmic ray experiment burst into life, as the Super-TIGER team received word that NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, which provides operations support for scientific ballooning in Antarctica, had decided to terminate the flight of the balloon carrying their detector aloft in the polar vortex.

Super-TIGER shatters scientific balloon record in Antarctica

Over the holiday weekend, the WUSTL-led cosmic ray experiment Super-TIGER set a record for the longest flight ever made by a heavy-liftscientific balloon. Now aloft for 45 days, shattering the previous record of 42 days, it has recorded more than 50 million “events,” or hits by cosmic rays arriving from space. The scientists are ecstatic to have such a great balloon because the longer the it stays up, the more data they will collect and the more they will learn about the mysterious mechanism that accelerates these particles and sends them streaming across space.

Super-TIGER stalks cosmic rays in Antarctica

Invisible high-velocity particles rain down on Earth day in and day out, but  it has taken 100 years and clever deduction  for physicists to figure out what they’re made of and where they come from. Although some details are still unclear, physicists have built a case that the cosmic rays are born in volleys of supernova explosions in OB associations, loose associations of hot, massive stars sprinkled throughout our galaxy.

Super-TIGER is up!!!

The Super-TIGER comic-ray experiment had a perfect launch Sunday 9:45 am  New Zealand Daylight Time. The enormous balloon that will carry it to the limits of Earth’s atmosphere was stretched out on the ice and then partially filled.  As it came up off the ice, the balloon rose over the downstream instrument. When it was directly overhead the Boss released the  two-ton cosmic-ray instrument and it was lofted effortlessly into the skies over Antarctica.

Rough guide to Super-TIGER watching

The word from Antarctica is that the polar vortex is setting up early this year and the balloon-borne Super-TIGER cosmic-ray experiment may be launched into the vortex any day now. Once the launch starts, web cams and a tracking map will go live at NASA’a Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility site Blogs and Twitter feeds are already providing a lively running commentary on the buildup to launch.